What is Michèle Dagenais doing in Vienna? What is she looking for in Tomas, a struggling pianist? The answer is far from cliché!
The novel La Dame de la rue des Messieurs transports us to Vienna; it should be emphasized from the outset as the tone of the story is imbued with the particular atmosphere of this city.
Any visitor to the Austrian capital is struck by its vitality, specific to its location in the heart of Europe, and at the same time by its outmoded character, a memory of the vanished Austro-Hungarian Empire. There, the past and the present are entwined in harmony.
Jean Lemieux does the same by immersing us in the lives of Michèle and Tomas who, unexpectedly, will come to live together in a small Viennese apartment.
She is from Quebec, a mother, in her sixties, recently widowed, and she decided on a whim to go and spend some time in Vienna. Isn't the capital of music a must for a woman who wants to reconnect with the gifted pianist she was when she was very young?
Tomas moved to Vienna after leaving Czechoslovakia when his native country was invaded by Russian troops in 1968, shattering the momentum for freedom of the Prague Spring.
< p>Since then, he has done a thousand and one jobs and, at 71, he is now a pianist in a café. This is where Michèle meets him and asks him to give her lessons. She looks serious, so he accepts, albeit intrigued.
He quickly realizes that she needs his services less than access to a piano. Plus, she's not very talkative. But this understanding suits him.
The day Michèle had a very bad fall in Herrengasse, the rue des Messieurs, the hospital turned to him, since he was her only contact in the city. The ties between Michèle and Tomas will thus become closer, and their secrets will be revealed.
Love of music
Starting from an unusual situation, Jean Lemieux chisels with tact and intelligence a very pretty story that flirts with love, but which is not: the author, it's lucky, avoids easy scenarios!
Rather, life paths will unfold: that of a housewife in the Quebec of the Quiet Revolution and that of a not-so-revolutionary youngster in the Europe of not-quiet years.
Both come together through a love of music – moreover, Beethoven's story serves as the backdrop for the story – and through the way in which they invented scenarios to explain childhood mistakes .
Jean Lemieux is a jack-of-all-trades author, who writes for young people and signs detective novels.
This time, we are in a different register where it beautifully explores the delicacy of feelings and the restraint of emotions. No need for explosions to bear witness to disturbing moments: well-placed notes are enough.
And its beautiful air carries us away, very light and yet persistent.